Life on Earth (to be released April 15, 2016)
If you know me, you know I’m all for experimentation.
Some fans may disagree, but I love when an artist steps out of his or her comfort zones to embrace a new sound or direction. It keeps the content fresh, the material unpredictable and you just never know when an artist will strike gold.
Unpredictability, thy name is Musiq Soulchild. At least these last few years.
For the better part of 15 years, Musiq’s name has been synonymous with soul — literally, child. But more recently, Musiq has experimented with everything from reggae to hip-hop. A collabo album with Syleena Johnson, stints as The Husel and Purple Wondaluv — homie wore more masks than Jim Carrey. Results were mixed, to say the least, but hey, can’t fault a brother for trying.
And you certainly can’t fault a brother for returning to his roots.
Life on Earth, Musiq’s seventh solo LP, is a love letter to his Day One’s — no wacky personas, no sharp left turns. It’s simply the soulful R&B that has become the hallmark of his career.
“Wait A Minute” opens the set with the hip-hop edge that’s reminiscent of earlier Musiq hits like “B.U.D.D.Y.” but the album quickly settles into familiar territory on “Who Really Loves You.” “Shorty, you fine but you can’t lean on your looks forever” — Musiq flatly tells his girl that there’s no future in her frontin’ and that she’s letting love slip away. That energy — and wisdom — is echoed on the single “Heart Away,” proving that Musiq still excels weaving tales over catchy soundscapes.
Musiq’s vocals cascade down horn and hand claps on “Changed My Mind” and bounce between finger snaps on “I Do.” He really hasn’t missed a beat. Musiq’s knack for collaborations is also showcased here; he goes toe-to-toe with JoiStaRR on “Part of Me” as they contemplate their love lives while Rapsody’s verse is the icing on the cake of “Far Gone.” When’s that album dropping, Rapsody? These hip-hop streets are hungry.
Life on Earth does stumble occasionally: While I thought “Loving You” was one of the album’s better offerings, the unnecessary vocal effects seemed more like an attempt to follow trends than strengthen the song. The track is great without them. And the positive message of “Alive and Well” gets bogged down by well-intentioned but hilariously bizarre lyrics: “If you’re a fat man, then be a happy fat man.” Um, yeah, I’ll get to work on that, playa.
Life on Earth doesn’t rewrite Musiq’s playbook and it wasn’t meant to. It’s simply a back-to-basics album from an artist who has been away from home much too long.
Welcome back, Musiq. You were missed.
Best tracks: “Who Really Loves You,” “Changed My Mind,” “I Do”
4 stars out of 5